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‘Our electoral process requires total overhaul’

Olorogun Theo Mukoro is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta State. In this interview, he talks on salient  issues affecting Nigeria. Excerpts:

By Lucky Orji

CRITICALLY examining Nigeria’s polity since 1999, are we getting it right in policy making and execution?

In 1999, a lot of factors came into play and metamorphosed into the present style and structure of today’s political dispensation; the successive election annulments by the IBB regime, with the last one of June 12, 1993 which left a lot of cynicism among the beleaguered elitist political class.

So what happened was that a lot of neophytes influx especially those from the contractor class who were either serving directly with the then military administrators as SSGs or those that were errand boys to some of the Lebanese gurus who had top military connections in Abuja emerged as governors, senators, etc.

While all these was happening, those with the right pedigree for leading Nigeria stayed put and adopted a wait and see attitude while majority of them were either on self imposed exile or run-away NADECO chieftains who had gone underground to evade the Abacha manhunt for the opposition. The above scenario led to the emergence of a military transition that brought together strange political bed fellows, the original G34 group which had some semblance of ideological posturing was later hijacked into the PDP which was not a political party in the real sense of it, but a vote-gathering machine hurriedly put together to, at all costs, wrest power from the military.

The aftermath of this scenario has left us witnessing policy somersaults with a very weak and defective constitution which does not capture the fundamentals of our uniquely diverse co-existence metrics, with inherited dysfunctional state institution. We presently have a socio-political and economic system where certain oligarchic interest have become more influential and bigger than the state institutions when it should be the other way round. We really have a lot of catching up to do but it suffices to say that one cardinal issue that needs to be addressed is the issue of renegotiating our terms of co-existence, the overhaul and production of a truly 21st century Nigerian constitution that will provide the platform for a distinct and clear landmark departure from the 49 years of our underachievement as a nation.

You have so many re-brandings going on. One of them is electoral reform. Do you think reform is the solution to our electoral problem?

Yes, our electoral system requires total overhaul. The Justice Uwais recommendations raised one fundamental issue which is the issue of increased autonomy for INEC. The appointment of the chairman of the electoral commission also is important and the certainty of his tenure also has to be guaranteed by the constitution with two thirds vote from the National Assembly to always ratify whatever changes are to be made in the modus operandi of the commission.

Allowing the present INEC to continue with the business of conducting elections after the monumental irregularities and dismal performance of the last elections  does not guarantee any good for us as a nation. Yes a holistic electoral reform with a thorough and comprehensive strategy that will include the inputs of all relevant stakeholders will go a long way in determining the quality of leaders that our elections produce.

Do you believe this re-branding being carried out by the Ministry of Communication and Information would change Nigeria’s attitude to government work and corruption?
When you talk of a brand, you are talking of an image that is predictable and familiar with a majority audience. Like the brand Guinness which has been there since 1759, for any brand to be good, its contents must have substance that must be associated with consistent and predictable value to end users.

Our contents as a nation need to first be imbued with value and substance, infrastructure, political stability, macro and micro economic organisation, national morals ethos and values, qualitative educational system, functional healthcare, efficient security system, etc. These are the contents that need to be built into a brand that will endure in the long-term. We need to go back to the basics as the re-branding Prof. Dora Akunyili has embarked on  is nothing more than an academic exercise.

Briefly comment on the CBN governor, EFCC and the bank CEO/MDs saga.
This further lends credence to my hypothesis on the dsyfunctionality of our national institutions. These banks had licensed auditors, the CBN also has its own regulatory agencies that had to wait for Lamido Sanusi to come on board before action could be taken.

The banking institution has always failed Nigerians as it doesn’t  exist for the statutory objective of providing capital to small and medium business which is the real engine of economic growth in any nation. Rather, it prefers to fraternise with politicians and dubious business figures who guarantee them higher returns on lending.

The world is now a global village especially with the operations and interconnectedness of financial institutions, we need to take advantage of the mistakes of the global recession in the US and other developed economies to retrace our steps and take adequate steps that will insulate us against any major surprises, and also we need to strengthen legislation that will empower legitimate businesses with increased accessibility to funds to enable them drive the economy and create more jobs.

Amnesty has been viewed by public commentators as a means of buying time by the Federal Government. What is your take on this?
Amnesty legally should be granted to convicted persons, but, in this case, it is being granted to a generality of youths from the Niger Delta without any form of classification as to who deserves what, when and how. The Ledum Mitee report had a lot of recommendations and amnesty is just one of them.

The fundamental issues of infrastructural as well as human development need to be seriously addressed or else the flashpoints of agitations expressing itself in varied forms will continue to re surface in the Niger Delta. As a Niger Delta chief, my candid opinion is that, apart from the defects on the side of government, we all have to look at the internal constraints of leadership in the Niger Delta, what have we done with the chunk we have received so far?

The billions our governors pick up every month, how is it used? Because if we don’t correct this, even if we start getting 50 per cent derivation, we may still not be able to apply it optimally for development purposes.

We also have to be careful about the kind of precedent that we are setting by rewarding or calling militant leaders to Abuja and paying them hundreds of millions to give up the so-called struggle for emancipation, as this might have a devastating boomerang effect on the ethos of hard work we have all set out to imbibe in our young ones, as they might start misconstruing the bearing of arms as a significant route to reward and recognition in Abuja.

The measuring line from my perspective is that what can be done in Abuja could also be replicated in the Niger Delta states without any form of foot dragging the roads in Abuja shouldn’t be any better from the Warri roads. The airports schools etc should be vividly live and functional in all the Niger Delta states. All the above will be very functional if we have a truly Federal constitution that embodies our unique diversities and as recommended from the Willinks commission report of the 50s that the Niger Delta area is a unique ecological area which also requires unique and special attention. The struggle should be ideological and resorting to arms should be a last option which I don’t think we require now.


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